In the spring of 2014, Wilson Combat announced its line of accessories and custom options on Beretta 92/96 series pistols, with input from Ernest Langdon. Having been a satisfied user of Berettas for more than 50 years and of Bill Wilson’s products for decades, and having known Ernest Langdon for 15 years and won several matches with a Beretta 92 he had built for me, I had great expectations. When I got a Wilson custom Beretta in my hands, it lived up to those expectations.
Though Bill Wilson is synonymous with the 1911 pistols he first customized and then manufactured, I can remember decades ago when he said that for an out-of-the-box, standard-price gun, you couldn’t beat the Beretta 92 for reliability and performance. He pretty much restated that in his announcement of his company’s new Beretta options. Bill explained, “My first exposure to the Beretta 92/96 series pistol was back in the 1980s at a Second Chance bowling pin match in Michigan. I was visiting with the late Jack Robbins, who was doing testing for the military for selection of a new service pistol. He was telling me how soft shooting, incredibly reliable and above-average accurate the 92s he was testing were. Money was pretty tight back in the ’80s, but it wasn’t long before I had a Model 92, and Jack was right. Since that time I’ve always owned and shot Beretta 92 pistols. I shot a 92 in the inaugural IDPA Invitational and in at least one Nationals.” Bill went on, “Being an old revolver guy, mastering the double-action first shot was no issue for me. The Model 92 is the only service pistol that I shoot as well as a 1911. In addition to being a collector of custom 1911s and old Colts, I collect Beretta handguns of all types and have a pretty extensive collection, so my interest level is high. The guys at Wilson Combat have customized several model 92s for me, so it just seemed natural for us to offer these services to our customers. Besides, it created an economic reason to do some of the cool stuff I personally wanted!”
Ernest Langdon has won many national championships in practical shooting with the Beretta 92, and his Langdon Tactical is famous for superb custom Berettas. When I sat down for a while with Bill Wilson at a recent trade show, he told me that when he decided to offer Beretta work, he reached out to Ernest, and Langdon was at Wilson Combat two weeks later. “He trained four of our staff to do 92 actions,” said Bill, “and gave us solid new product ideas.”
Hybrid In Hand
Bill’s son, Ryan, carries on the family tradition and runs day-to-day operations at Wilson Combat. Ryan sent me a 92FS that had an action job by his Langdon-trained gunsmiths. The rest of the Custom Carry Package included a Novak Battlesight rear sight (fixed, sleek and with an easy-to-see-through U-shaped rear notch), a green fiber-optic front sight, a fluted steel guide rod, checkering on both front and back grip straps, a rounded triggerguard and textured G10 grips (with, of course, a Wilson Combat medallion). Also part of that package was an Armor-Tuff finish, and what Wilson calls a Custom Carry Safety De-Cocker. And, just for pride of ownership, the Wilson Combat logo is prominently laser-etched onto the pistol. Our test sample also had a skeletonized hammer for faster lock time, a short-reach trigger for better leverage and the barrel shortened to 4.7 inches (for aesthetics) and crowned to 11 degrees (for enhanced accuracy).
The sights came dialed in for point of aim/point of impact (POA/POI), always an indication that the maker actually cares about the quality of the gun, and offered an excellent sight picture for fast work. The checkering felt secure in the hand, and wasn’t rough enough that it would bother the shooter in an intensive thousand-rounds-a-day shooting course. That might not be true of those fiercely sharp G10 grips, however, but they sure don’t let the gun move in your hand while you are shooting.
Beretta’s Bruniton finish is certainly rust free, but the finish on its aluminum frames does tend to show wear. On mine I’m not bothered by that; it gives the gun a “salty” look. Still, I can see the value of the Armor-Tuff finish and why it’s so popular.
The first thing you notice on this gun is that the ambidextrous FS safety/decocking lever has been replaced by a single side lever that functions like Beretta’s “G” models, as a decocker only. The single biggest complaint about this gun from my test team was, “Why isn’t it ambidextrous?” Bill told me that it was because he and others in a mostly right-handed world didn’t feel they needed it. The lever is bigger than Beretta standard, and therefore easier to hit with the right thumb. Beretta is not making the parts available, so Wilson Combat has come up with their own lever, spring and plunger.
Our test team universally liked the oversized mag-release button. Some of those devices will accidentally release the magazine when the middle finger of the non-dominant hand contacts it in shooting grasp. This one never did, over hundreds of rounds in many hands.
The big thing, of course, is the action job. In double action (DA), the trigger pull weight averaged 8.5 pounds. Single action (SA) averaged out at 4.1 pounds. The DA throw was smooth and sweet, and the SA break was crisp and clean.
The Wilson Beretta showed itself to be very consistent load to load, with little more than half an inch separating its groups, whether standard pressure or +P, from 115 grain to 147. Federal’s famously accurate 9BP load, a street-proven 115-grain jacketed hollow point (JHP), put five shots into 2.4 inches from a Matrix rest on a concrete bench at 25 yards. The best three of those—probably the best indication of inherent accuracy in a gun/cartridge combination when you’re not using a machine rest, since it tends to factor out unnoticed human error—was little more than half the size of the whole five shots, at 1.35 inches center to center.
It didn’t seem right to test a Wilson Combat pistol without using some of Wilson Combat’s own ammunition. It was the hottest of the test, with a 124-grain Hornady XTP bullet loaded to 1,200 feet per second (fps), but the extra power brought minimal penalty in accuracy. The five-shot group was only 0.15 inches larger than the cluster produced with the milder 115-grain round, and measured 2.55 inches. The “best three” cluster within tied the Federal, at 1.35 inches.
The 147-grain subsonic is a hugely popular 9mm choice, and was represented in this test by Winchester WinClean with full metal jacket (FMJ). I’ve seen this particular load win pistol matches, and it proved its accuracy here, too, with a best-of-test 2-inch group for all five 25-yard shots, the best three in 1.2 inches.
New Legacy Gun?
This gun was so nice I hated to send it back, particularly since the schedule hadn’t allowed me to shoot a match with it. I liked it enough that I’ll be sending one of my own Berettas to Wilson Combat for similar treatment. Due to personal preference, I’ll ask them to leave the ambidextrous F-type safety/decocking lever as is. And since mine is stainless, I probably won’t opt for a different finish. But I do like those sights and the action work!
For more information, visit http://www.wilsoncombat.com or call 800-955-4856.
This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of COMBAT HANDGUNS. Subscription is available in print and digital editions below.
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